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Shabbos Chazon 5764 - The Nechama of Three and Seven

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Jul 20, 2004
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Shabbos Chazon 5764

תשעה באב always falls between דברים and ואתחנן. And this is very appropriate - because of the parshah of דברים we read of the חטא המרגלים, the בכיה לדורות - the needless crying which caused the רבונו של עולם, as it were, to say that He would one day give us reason to cry; while the parshah of ואתחנן - which also contains within it the קריאת התורה of תשעה באב, כי תוליד בנים ובני בנים - speaks of exile, and teshuvah, and, finally, redemption. And so תשעה באב falls between these two פרשיות which contain the whole cycle of חורבן and גּאולה - beginning with the very root of חורבן, at the חטא המרגלים, through גלות and finally reconciliation and redemption.

תשעה באב is also placed between two sets of הפטרות; the 3 הפטרות of פרעיות, which tell of the threatening calamity, culminating in today’s הפטורה of חזון, followed by the 7 הפטרות of consolation, beginning with נחמו נחמו עמי.

These numbers - 3 and 7 - are very apposite. They are numbers, of course, that constantly come up in Judaism - the seven days of the week immediately come to mind, and the three festivals.

Generally it may be said that seven represents completeness, a full cycle. Thus seven days completes the cycle of the week, and the full course of a יום טוב. Seven days completes a cycle of טהרה, as in the פרה אדומה and the שבעה נקיים of a נדה; seven times seven completes the cycle of the עומר. And there are many other examples.

Three, on the other hand, represents rootedness. There are three אבות, who are the foundation of כלל ישראל. The הלכה says that a tree takes root in 3 days. There are the three pillars upon which, the Mishnah in פרקי אבות tells us, the world rests: תורה עבודה וגמילות חסדים.

And according to the kaballah there are seven מידות of הקב"ה that are reflected in every aspect of Creation - לך ה' הגדול והגבורה והתפארת וגו' - which, in turn, are rooted in חכמה בינה ודעת, the three aspects of Divine wisdom that are the root of those מידות.

R’ Moshe Shapiro שליט"א once pointed out a striking precedent for this pattern in the Torah. The Torah describes the land of Israel as: כי ה' א' מביאך אל ארץ טובה, ארץ נחלי מים עינות ותהומות יוצאים בבקעה ובהר, ארץ חיטה ושעורה וגפן תאנה ורימון ארץ זית שמן ודבש; note that here we have three sources of fruitfulness (נחלי מים, עינות ותהומות; streams, wells and aquifers) that produce seven kinds of fruit. And this is a paradigm: Three שרשים, which produce the seven fruits that represent the fullness of nature.

We’re used, perhaps, to thinking that first we have 3 sad weeks, and then the sad part’s over, ברוך השם, now we move on to the happy part.

But if we understand the significance of the pattern of three and seven, we can gain a clearer perspective - and understand that the comfort of the שּבעה דנחמתא, and the completeness of that comfort, is rooted in the אבילות of the three weeks that precede it.

And, more generally - that the completeness of the נחמה to which we ultimately look foreword, grows out of our אבילות today.

As חז"ל say - כל המתאבל על ירושלים, זוכה ורואה בנחמתה.

The three weeks of mourning - are the source for the subsequent consolation. Because by participating in that mourning - we share in the pain of our people, and by rooting ourselves in כלל ישראל, we can join in its destiny, which will ultimately be glorious.

There is a very profound truth here, and one that speak powerfully to us, but it needs to be amplified:

חז"ל speak with disdain of someone who is פורש מדרכי ציבור, a person who separates himself - in his own mind - from the Jewish people.
רמב"ם הלכות תשובה פרק ג הלכה יא

הפורש מדרכי צבור ואף על פי שלא עבר עבירות אלא נבדל מעדת ישראל ואינו עושה מצות בכללן ולא נכנס בצרתן ולא מתענה בתעניתן אלא הולך בדרכו כאחד מגויי הארץ וכאילו אינו מהן אין לו חלק לעולם הבא,

Rambam: One who separates himself from the community, even if he does not sin at all, but simply segregates himself from the community of Israel, and does not do mitzvos with them, for participate in their troubles, or fast in their fast days, but goes his own way like one of the nations of the world, as if he is not one of them, has no share in the world to come.

He doesn’t necessarily do any עבירות - he keeps strictly kosher, doesn’t even drink water in Flatbush. But he cuts his connection with the Jewish people; he writes himself out of the story. And so he is lost.

Conversely, when a non-Jew wishes to convert to Judaism, the Rambam writes that we tells him the following:

רמב"ם הלכות איסורי ביאה פרק יד הלכה א

כיצד מקבלין גירי הצדק כשיבוא אחד להתגייר מן העכו"ם ויבדקו אחריו ולא ימצאו עילה, אומרים לו מה ראית שבאת להתגייר, אי אתה יודע שישראל בזמן הזה דוויים ודחופים ומסוחפין ומטורפין ויסורין באין עליהן, אם אמר אני יודע ואיני כדאי מקבלין אותו מיד.

How do we accept a convert? ... We say to him: Why do you wish to convert? Don’t you know that Israel in these times are suffering, oppressed, downtrodden, and troubles afflict them? If he responds: Yes, I know, and I am not worthy in sharing in that burden, we accept him immediately.

יודע אני ואיני כדאי - I know, and I don’t deserve the privilege of sharing that burden.

A גר is not just accepting a set of rules. He is attaching himself to Jewish history. And he has to feel that being part of that history - even with all its tragic parts - is the greatest privilege a human being can be given. יודע אני ואיני כדאי - I know, and I don’t deserve it.

The model of conversion to Judaism is רות המואביה. When נעמי tried to dissuade her - to send her back to מואב - she responded: עמך עמי, ואלקיך אלקי. Here, too, we have these two commitments: One, to the Jewish people, and one to the Jewish G-d. And so, too, every גר makes these two commitments: Through קבלת המצוות he says, with רות: אלקיך אלקי; and by saying יודע אני ואיני כדאי, I am not worthy to share the burden of Jewish history, he says, with her, עמי עמי.

To be a Jew doesn’t only mean to do מצות, and to avoid עבירות. To be a Jew means to live beyond ourselves - to live beyond our particular small lives. It means to live with an abiding sense that my life - my individual story - is part of the story of a people; it means to be held in the grip of that history. It means to know that I share a history and a destiny with every other Jew. It means to carry the freight of our past, to share in the burden of our present, and to be responsible towards our future.

To be a Jew means to carry the burden of history - and to know that it is a privilege to carry that burden.

כל המתאבל על ירושלים זוכה ורואה בנחמתה. To mourn for ירושלים - means to feel our national loss as a personal loss. It means to feel our national degradation, as a personal degradation. It means to feel our national tragedy, as a personal tragedy.

It means to attach oneself to Jewish history.

It means to say - יודע אני ואיני כדאי.

By identifying with our past, we become part of our future. Because the two are connected. It’s all one story. There are many different kinds of chapters, but it’s one story, with one Author. Everything we read about this week - the חטא המרגלים, the חורבן, the promise of תשובה, the glory of גאולה - it’s all connected.

I once heard a stunning observation. We end קינות with אלי ציון, a song of mourning for ציון. The melody is very old - as old, perhaps, as the קינה itself. That same melody occurs in another place in davening, on יום טוב: בנה ביתך כבתחילה וכונן מקדשך על מכונו. It’s all one piece, one composition.

As we pass from שבת חזון through תשעה באב to שבת נחמו, as we go from the three weeks of mourning to the seven of comfort, let us use this period of mourning to root ourselves in our past, so as to share in the fullness of the future; let us not forget what a privilege it is to be part of this unique history, with all of its pain, saying - יודע אני ואיני כדאי, I know and do not deserve the privilege; let us be attuned to the sweep and grandeur of the chords that bind אלי ציון to בנה ביתך כבתחילה, feel them resonating within us, feeling their power, their pain, their beauty, and may we soon hear their triumphant crescendo, בביאת גואל צדק בב"א.


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Learning on the Marcos and Adina Katz YUTorah site is sponsored today l'ilui nishmot Moshe Buksbaum, Moshe ben Nossen Mordechai A"H, and Sarah Buksbaum, Sarah Gittel bat Yochonon A"H, by their children and grandchildren and by Roslyn and Toby Feinerman in memory of Rabbi and Mrs. Abraham M. Feinerman